Should we do an engagement session?
There is so much to consider when planning a wedding, and often one of the first steps is the engagement session. A lot of couples ask me, "Should we do an engagement session?", and I always say yes! Here are just a few reasons why engagement sessions are so important:
Getting comfortable in front of the camera
The most important reason to do an engagement session is to get used to being photographed. Most people get professional photos done only a handful of times in their life, which can make doing so nerve-wracking. Use this opportunity to practice posing and interacting with each other while being photographed. This practice can help you feel more relaxed during photo time on your wedding day. Also, it can make photos go quicker on your wedding day, which can be really helpful because there is usually a fairly limited time slot for portraits.
Getting comfortable with your photographer
Engagement sessions are also a great time to get to know your wedding photographer. Your wedding photographer will be with you more than anyone else on your wedding day (maybe even your spouse). Engagement sessions give you the chance to see how your photographer guides, poses, and works in general. Use this opportunity to build a relationship with your photographer, and make sure they truly are a good fit to capture your wedding day. This also helps your photographer better capture you as a couple, because they know what types of poses and prompts will work best for you.
Lots of uses for the photos
Leading up to the wedding, there are a lot of reasons to have nice photographs of you and your partner. These photos can be used for save-the-dates, invites, wedding website, signs, social media, and announcements. Plus, they're great to display at the wedding or in your home. It's often nice to have more than just your wedding photos to hang up in your home.
Capture this season of your life
This reason is underrated, but still important! Engagement is such a blissful time in a relationship, and you are only engaged for a short period of time in your life. Capture how it feels so you can look back on it down the line!
Planning the Session
Planning the engagement session is so exciting, because it's one of the first few steps of actually getting married! Here is a breakdown of what you need to know:
Once you've chosen a photographer, make sure to get the session date booked as soon as possible! Photographers' calendars fill up years in advance, even for sessions. Think of what time of year you want your photos done, and if you're not sure, ask your photographer. I typically suggest doing it the same time of year as your wedding, so you can get a feel for the weather and light, and have a cohesive color pallet. That means doing your photos one year before your wedding though, so you'll want to get that session booked even earlier than that. Doing your engagement session early means you'll have plenty of time to get save-the-dates out if you plan to use the photos for them.
The location of the session will set the tone for the photos. I typically suggest choosing a location that is meaningful to you and your partner, or one that reflects your personalities or interests. Start with thinking - do we want photos in nature, with city structures, or indoors? Parks are classic and beautiful, and typically provide a variety of green space and outdoor scenery. Open areas and parks can be great for sunsets because there is often less blocking the sunlight. Downtown areas can provide a variety of colors, lines, and textures. Cities and buildings provide room for a lot of creativity and unique photos. Indoor sessions can be great as well, because they can show off your interests, and they are weather proof. If you opt for indoors, make sure to think about a location with lots of windows. Or, if you aren't sure where to start, ask your photographer what they suggest, or if they have any bucket-list location ideas.
Once you've chosen the location(s), let your photographer know, so they can assist with any permits. A lot of locations, even parks, require a permit to take photographs. Some permits take weeks to months to acquire, so make sure these are secured ahead of time so you can get your photos done at your preferred location.
Time of Day
I typically say, ideally sessions should start two hours before sunset. The best time of day for photos is roughly 1 hour before sunset, commonly known as "golden hour". But the time the session actually starts depends on how many and which locations you chose. This varies for each photographer, but I usually want at least 30-45 minutes at each location. You'll need to add in time for driving between locations, and outfit changes. State parks or locations that involve hiking can take even longer, so for sessions like that, I suggest blocking off up to three hours.
Weather also plays a large factor in the start time. Since the date is usually chosen a long time in advance, we often have to work with the weather we get, similar to the wedding date. Fortunately, there is more flexibility though with start time and the possibility of rescheduling if need-be. If you're planning a session in the summer, consider doing a sunrise session instead to avoid heat. The direction of the sun is super important though, so check with your photographer what they suggest. Other restrictions on start time can be the hours that a location is open, so make sure to get a location set first before setting the time.
Closer to the session date, you'll want to plan your outfits. It's best if you and your partner coordinate outfits for a cohesive look. You'll want to have matching formality levels and some element of color that either compliments or matches for each outfit. I typically suggest 2 outfits - one casual, and one formal. You may want to consider including colors and pieces that match your overall wedding theme.
Some couples like to bring things along for their photos that add a personal touch. Props could include a wine for a toast, a snack like pizza or donuts, a meaningful book or flowers to pose your ring with, or a blanket that matches your outfit for seated and laying down photos. Signs that include your wedding date can be fun too!
I love including pets in photos! If you're considering bringing your dog along, make sure to let your photographer know ahead of time. Dogs may limit or determine your location - as some don't allow pets, and you may want to pick a location closer to home so you can drop your pet off after a few photos. Alternatively, you may want to bring along a friend to walk your dog while you do photos without them. If you're considering including your cat (or any other pets), you may want to do some photos at home.
Your photographer should guide you with posing, and provide prompts for you during the session. Most couples chose to leave this completely up to the photographer. However, you may want to think about what types of poses you like or don't like ahead of time. Some couples want to re-create certain poses, and some just want to have less of certain kinds of poses - either way, communicate that with your photographer ahead of time.
When the day of the session comes, have fun! Treat it like a date night (with a third wheel, of course), and make the most out of it. Engagement is such a special time during your relationship, so cherish it!